Writing Exercise of the Week:  Playing with Paragraphs

I thought we’d explore the exciting world of re-writing in this week’s exercise.

Pick a Paragraph

Find a paragraph from something you’ve written – either in the past or your current WIP – and either copy and paste it into a separate document on your computer.  If it’s handwritten, you can type it into a new document.

If you don’t have anything, pick a paragraph from a book you’ve read.  

This paragraph should be five or more sentences.

Make it Brief

Read through the paragraph.  What’s the main point of the information presented?  How can that information be conveyed in fewer sentences or fewer words?

Does the information presented in the original paragraph still come across in the new, shorter version?  How could the information presented in the original paragraph be cut down to one sentence?  

Expand, Expand, Expand

Using the original paragraph, how can you expand upon the information provided and turn the paragraph’s content into a page-long paragraph?  Could you add details, more flowery language, or expand upon the information provided without obscuring the meaning of the original paragraph?

Does the longer paragraph still convey the original’s meaning, or is it somehow lost in the expanded translation?

Square One

Start over.  Re-write the original paragraph to communicate the same information in the same amount of space, but create a whole new paragraph. 

How does the rewritten one differ from the original?  What did you add or remove that gave the paragraph greater clarity or might cause confusion?

Why Am I Doing This?

When it comes to writing, editing is part of the process.  Sometimes we might come across a paragraph or section of our story that needs further information or detail to give information to the audience.

Other times we might have to cut down a paragraph to its bare bones but still need to convey the same information.  This skill will be helpful if you’re dealing with a required word count.


An author who is excellent at communicating a lot of info in a short space is James Patterson.

On the flip side, George R.R. Martin is an author who can expand a small idea into a long-form paragraph. 

I recommend reading or skimming their works for examples of long and short paragraphs.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

Writing Tip of the Week: Stop Beating Yourself Up

Molly planned to write this weekend but became so obsessed with creating the perfect cup of coffee for her writing time that she forgot to write. Now she’s upset she didn’t write, but darn it if that coffee didn’t turn out great!

We’ve all been there at one point or another.  You planned to sit down and write when you got home from work or over the weekend, and instead, you cleaned, read, or binge-watched something.  Now, you feel guilty and sick about wasting time that could have been spent writing and creating.  You vow not to do it again.

Why do we do this to ourselves?  

Let’s talk about it.

You’re Not Lazy; Your Subconscious Is

Humans have a lot going on, and sometimes we don’t take the time to prioritize things that we want to do. While we may have the desire and ambition to write, our subconscious secretly talks us out of it.  Why?  Because writing and creating take effort and energy, and after a long week at work staring at a screen, your brain is sick of computers and wants to veg out and do something mindless.  

Interestingly, we often plan to do things like write, only to find ourselves doing anything but writing.

Possible Solution: Trick yourself.  Don’t think about writing during the week.  Don’t plan to write, don’t carve out time to write.  Just jump in the chair and start whenever you get a spare moment.  Now you’re writing at the computer or with a pen and paper, and you’ve overridden your subconscious’s ability to stop you.

Let the Guilt Go

It’s easy to feel guilty about not writing.  Heck, the news wants us to feel guilty about pretty much everything, everywhere, all at once.  That alone is exhausting and taxing, so adding one more thing to the pile – especially something you want to do – only makes you feel worse about yourself.  There may be genuine reasons to feel guilt, but missing a day or weekend of writing shouldn’t be one of them.

Possible Solution:  Accept that you didn’t write when you wanted to, but know you will get to it when you can.  Creativity can’t flourish and grow under the oppressive weight of guilt and disappointment.  Free your mind from these things and allow your creative self the freedom it deserves. 

Newsflash: You’re Human

Part of being human is missing opportunities, making mistakes, and not getting to things we planned to do.  Oh well.  Life happens.  

And when life happens, we have to accept that we didn’t have the time to write, or we didn’t make the time to write, or chose not to write.  All of them are okay, and beating yourself up about past choices won’t help resolve or improve the present.  

Making the time, taking the time, and choosing to write and create is a positive and energizing process. You’ve done it before, and you’ll do it again.  So, you didn’t get to it this weekend.  Okay.  Or this month.  Uh-huh.  Or this year.  Whatever.  

Eventually, if you want it bad enough, desire it enough, and have the passion, you will get back to writing. 

One word at a time.  One sentence at a time.  One paragraph at a time.  You can make it happen, but don’t let negativity, guilt, or beating yourself up prevent you from getting there.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

Writing Tip of the Week: Don’t Be Afraid of False Starts

If you’ve ever seen a track meet, you’ve probably been witness to a false start at some point.  It’s that moment when a runner is so keyed up and ready to go that they leave the blocks or cross the line before the starting pistol is fired.  It can be embarrassing for the runner that caused the false start, but the nice thing is that they can try again.

And when it comes to starting your story, so do you.

Stories start within the timeline of events you have created, but sometimes the chosen point doesn’t work.  Let’s explore some possible reasons why.

Too Early

You had a great idea for an opening sequence when you outlined your story.  But when you sat down to write it out, you realized that not many significant events that influence the story’s direction or deliver insights into the characters happen during this time.

You may have started your story too early, which means looking at your outline and deciding the best moment to kick things off.  You can also look at your outline and ask, “What happens before this that’s important?” and write a new opening for your story.  

It’s crucial to hook the reader from the start, and if you realize the starting chapter you planned doesn’t have the momentum needed to keep the pages turning, it might be time to move forward and find the moment that does.

Too Late

I recently had this issue.  I had an action-packed sequence for the opening chapter, and I was excited to write it and watch the events unfold.  Once I wrote it out, I realized that there was a lot of key information missing that was needed for a reader to have context regarding what was going on.

I decided to add this information in the middle of the action, but that threw off the pacing of the chapter.  

So, I took a step back and asked myself, “What events led up to this moment that should be conveyed to the reader?”  I took the time to backtrack, and after a while, I had a new chapter to place in front of the action-packed one that established the setting, characters, and conflict in a way that grounded the reader and helped lead into the initial chapter I had written.

Sometimes we want to jump into the story, but we must remember that we’re holding the reader’s hand on this journey, and they don’t know all we know about what’s happening.  This is fine if you are writing a mystery and some elements need to be withheld, but if you’re not, you risk confusing and frustrating the reader.

By moving the story back a few minutes, I could give the reader the necessary information, so the next chapter had a more significant impact and made more sense.  If you feel that your story begins too late, take the time to explore what led up to the current set of circumstances and write a chapter that provides readers with the context needed to really get into your story.

Don’t Be Afraid to Play

Stories allow us to play and have fun, so we have many options about how and when our story starts. Experiment with this idea by jotting down several ideas as starting points for your story.  Some may be too early, some too late, but a few might be the key to giving the opening of your story the energy and hook it needs.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

Writing Tip of the Week: Writing Isn’t Magic

As writers, we have fantastic power.  We can create new worlds, characters, scenarios, and stories that can be enjoyed and shared with others until the end of time.  That’s quite a gift to have and one that often perplexes those who don’t write and create.  It’s as if they think what we do comes from some magic spell.

But we know the truth.

Magic powers or special abilities don’t make us a writer.  They don’t make us creative.  They don’t give up special powers to conjure up stories at will.

Writing takes time.  It takes persistence.  It takes dedication.  Like other professions or hobbies, it is a skill set that can be honed and perfected over time; but only if you take the time to improve.

If you have a knack for storytelling and a talent for crafting great characters and dialogue, that’s great.  But even those with ingrained and intuitive writing talent must work to improve their craft.

It’s just the reality of the situation.

Why do people believe this about writers or other creatives?  Why do they think what we do is some prestidigitation instead of the result of a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get our art out of our heads and into the world?

Perhaps it’s fear that drives this theory.  It’s easier to make up an excuse like “being a writer is a magical thing” instead of investing the time to sit down and write.  Maybe it’s intimidation that leads some to think this way.  After all, seeing Stephen King’s name on over 60 books can make anyone think King and other prolific authors are under some magical spell to write as much as they do.

But it’s nothing like that.  It’s just putting in the work.  It’s about trusting the process.  It’s about believing in your skills and abilities and being humble enough to know that you can improve upon them whenever you write.

The only real magic comes from inside you, your creativity, and your ideas.  No magic wand, spell book, or enchanted mirror is required.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

Writing Tip of the Week: When it Comes to Editing, Re-Visit Every Chapter

Editing is a necessary and inevitable part of the writing process.  No matter what you’re writing – from a blog post to a novel – taking the time to correct, add, delete, or change things helps make your writing stronger and helps you deliver a polished product.

When you edit, you likely know the key areas you want to focus on to improve the manuscript.  Still, it’s best to read the entire draft and make changes to each chapter along the way.

Let’s talk about it.

There’s Always Something

Even if you love how a chapter is written, there’s always room for small changes that can result in a stronger finished product.  It can be as simple as rewording a sentence for clarity or as involved as delivering greater detail to a character’s appearance.  You may also find grammar or spelling errors you missed in previous drafts that can now be fixed.

Every little bit helps.

Pacing, Pacing, Pacing

Taking the time to re-visit your entire story can help you see where the story lags, where a reader might lose interest, or where even you, as the writer, need clarification.  Checking the story for pacing and ease of reading can ensure you don’t lose a reader at any point during the story. 

What Really Matters

By going through each chapter, you can also ensure that each chapter has a reason to be in the book.  A reason?  Yes, a reason.  Each chapter should provide the reader with information about a character or plot that helps to move the story forward.  Whether it’s the main story, sub-plots, or backstory, all of it needs to assist in propelling the narrative toward its conclusion.

Beginnings and Endings

How does the story begin?  Does it grab you?  Does it make you want to turn to the next page and keep reading?  Go back through your opening chapters to ensure they help transport the reader into the story’s world and keep them there.  You can offer up set-ups and questions in these early chapters that will be paid off and answered later.  

With the final chapters, have you created a satisfying conclusion for your reader that ties up any loose story threads and gives them a complete story?  Is there anything presented throughout the story that hasn’t been resolved?  Reading the entire manuscript ensures all story points are concluded and not left flapping in the wind for readers to ponder what happened.

Final Thoughts

Editing is a lengthy task and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.  By giving your story the time and editing it deserves, you can help make it a more robust narrative with better pacing, a stronger opening, and a grand finale.  

It’s also great to snag those pesky grammar and spelling errors!

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

The Self-Aware Writer – Blog Post Links

Below are links to the articles in my Self-Aware Writer series:

The Self-Aware Writer – Intro Article

What is Self-Awareness?

Self-Awareness & Ideas

Self-Awareness & Story Development

Self-Awareness & The Drafting Process

Self-Awareness & Editing

Self-Awareness & Feedback

Self-Awareness vs Ego

Self-Awareness & Self-Criticism

Self-Awareness & Non-Fiction

Self-Awareness & Failure

Self-Awareness & Success

Self-Awareness Writing Prompts

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

The Self-Aware Writer – Thank You

This past month, I’ve had a lot of fun delving into topics about being a self-aware writer.  We’ve discussed many things that I hope will help you on your journey as an author, a screenwriter, a poet, or a playwright.  

From using self-awareness throughout the writing process to working through failure and dealing with successes, it’s important to know and understand that self-awareness should be an ever-present tool in our writer’s toolkit.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series, and I’ll see you next time!

The Self-Aware Writer – Self-Awareness Writing Prompts

We’ve covered many topics regarding what it means to be a self-aware writer, so I felt in today’s post, we’d look at some writing prompts you can use to help yourself on your self-awareness journey.  You can add these as part of your morning pages, as part of a writing warm-up, or even to start a writer’s journal.

Let’s get started.

Prompt #1 – What Are My Strengths as a Writer?

Take the time to examine your writing skills and the areas where you excel.  It can be one or a handful of things, but write each down and explain why you feel these are your strengths.

Prompt #2 – What Are My Weaknesses as a Writer?

This requires honesty and humility, but it’s important to tune into these areas and know what you can improve upon as a writer.  We all have one or two pieces of the writing puzzle that we aren’t as strong in, and it is valuable insight to be aware of them.

Prompt #3 – How Can I Improve My Weaknesses as a Writer?

Now that you’ve identified your writing weaknesses, look for ways to improve.  Can you practice those areas each day?  Are there articles, books, videos, or online classes that can help you improve?  Being proactive and working to improve will enhance your skills in these weaker areas and make you a stronger writer overall.

Prompt #4 – What Am I Currently Working on, and What are My Plans to Complete It?

Have you started a novel or screenplay?  Outlines a short story?  It’s time to sit down and map out how you’ll complete this project – rough draft or finished – within a specific time frame.  Give yourself daily or weekly writing goals and a final deadline to have completed the project.  

Having your plan written down allows you to hold yourself accountable for your goals and objectives.  Part of being a self-aware writer is creating strategies and schedules to get the work done.  This also allows you to reflect and change if you cannot meet your initial goals.  It doesn’t mean you’ve failed; you may have to give yourself more time or break the work into smaller chunks to accomplish your goal.

Prompt #5 – What Does Success as a Writer Mean to Me?

This question may seem easy on the surface, but take the time to think about this one.  Success means different things to different people, and while some may want fame and fortune, others may just want their self-help eBook available on Amazon.  Whatever it means to you, writing it down and seeing it on the page is important.  Is your definition attainable?  Is it out of reach?

This leads to our final prompt…

Prompt #6 – What’s My Plan to Achieve Success as a Writer?

Much like having the plan to write your novel or screenplay, a writer must have self-awareness when planning out their pathway to success, whatever their definition may be.

You can write down a list of steps.  You can create a vision board.  You can make a plan with an accountability partner.  You can write down several ways of approaching success and decide which you’ll try first.  

Whatever you decide, take the time to really think about ways you can achieve your goals of writing success.

Next Time…

We’ve come to the end of our self-aware writer series.  A thank you is coming next.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

The Self-Aware Writer – Self-Awareness & Success

Last time, we talked about embracing failure and using it as a learning tool for success.  Many people become so paralyzed by the fear of failing that they don’t even try.  But what happens if you realize after a series of failures that success is around the corner?  

Let’s talk about it.

Rethinking Success

Success is not the endgame; it’s another stepping stone in a longer journey as a creative person.  While we all want to hit those achievement benchmarks, it’s important not to dwell too long on one singular success. Instead, you should use the momentum gained from reaching that goal to help you plan your trajectory toward the next one.

Acknowledging your successes is important, and you should celebrate or reward yourself somehow.  This form of positive reinforcement is another method to keep you motivated and on track as you reach your goals.

Self-awareness can help you learn not only from your failures but your successes as well.  What pathway did you take to achieve success?  What would you change when you start toward your next goal?  What did you learn from this milestone, and how can you use this information in the future?  What setbacks do you now know to avoid when planning your next roadmap to success?

While you will still face challenges as you begin toward a new goal, learning from the past is a great way to ensure you don’t repeat mistakes you made or issues you came across in the future.

The Self-Aware Writer and Success

Part of being self-aware is knowing who you are, not just as a writer but as a person.  And each individual has their own definition of success in their head.  Maybe for you, it’s getting one novel published.  Maybe to another person, it’s getting your book on the New York Times Best-Seller List.  To another, it might be just getting a draft of their screenplay done.  

No matter how you define success, know that it’s just one of many successes you will have.  It’s best not to squander your good fortune by acting like a fool.  Embrace the success, but know there’s more work to be done, more words to write, and more people in your corner that have helped get you to where you are.

You can help others achieve their writing goals by utilizing the self-awareness tool.  Don’t be afraid to coach or advise new writers and share your personal story with them.  Others can learn from your failures, rejections, and successes and, in turn, find their own pathway to success through your mentorship and advice.  

Should You Allow Success to Change You?

Easy answer: No.  Success should not be a green light for you to become a jerk to those around you or start acting like a diva barking demands at others.  While success is a great feeling, it should be seen as an achievement to be proud of, not the end of the road.  After all, if you’ve had success with one published novel, that only means it’s time to start work on the next.  And the next.  And the next.  

Success should be humbling; you’ve worked hard to reach this moment, and many people helped you along the way.  The last thing you want to do is become a self-absorbed narcissist.  Make sure you thank those who helped you reach this goal and helped you finally achieve success.

Next Time…

Now let’s put these topics into action with a series of writing prompts in the next post.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

The Self-Aware Writer – Self-Awareness & Failure

We’ve all failed at things in our lives, but the things we really want, really desire, really strive to achieve, we have to understand and accept that failure is part of the game.  Everyone you know, either in your personal life or who is a public figure, has failed at some point in their life.  Most people have failed dozens of times.

As a self-aware writer, as a self-aware person, the important thing to remember is failure should be viewed as a learning experience and not as an excuse to give up.

Let’s talk about it.

Accepting Failure

Part of self-awareness is knowing that you’ll face an insurmountable obstacle at some point in your life that feels like you’ve failed.  Any number of things could lead to that moment, some within your control and some not in your control.  Sometimes we get super close to achieving something, only for the opportunity to be taken away at the last moment.  Other times we tried and tried, but things still didn’t work out.

Hey, it happens.

When it comes to your writing career, having the self-awareness to know and accept that the inevitable rejection letter or email will happen is a step toward accepting failure on some level.  It doesn’t mean you burn your manuscript or give up writing; you take the loss and try again.

There’s this author some of you may know, Stephen King, whose first novel, Carrie, was rejected by 30 publishers before one finally picked it up.  And before that, King himself tossed the novel in the trash, the novel that helped make him a household name and an author who continues to publish multiple novels a year!

Failure has many negative connotations in our society.  Still, one thing that isn’t discussed is how failure has to happen for success to happen.  Failure is part of the process.  And no matter what you do, you have to start from somewhere and work your way up; and failure is just something that happens on the way to the top.

A few months ago, I wrote a review for a book called Chasing Failure by Ryan Leak that I highly recommend.  Part of self-awareness is knowing how to utilize failure to your advantage and make it a positive learning experience instead of a catastrophic nightmare.  

You Have the Right to Fail, So Allow It To Happen

The obsession with perfection can cause many to not even try.  We want to be the best at what we do from the start; the terror of falling flat on our faces and being judged by others can cause analysis paralysis and a sense of doom that prevents us from venturing out of our heads or comfort zones.

But we have to understand that failure is part of life.  It’s part of being human.  And we have to accept that part of humanity to truly live life and reach for our goals.  Failing is another step toward success; you can’t reach your goals without its existence.  Don’t fear it.

Learning From Failure

The key to dealing with a failure is to examine why it happened and what you can learn from it.  Every failure is a learning experience.  Once you can pinpoint why you failed during that attempt, you can reconfigure and try again.  You may fail again, but now you have the knowledge to help you make new decisions and choices as you progress toward your goal.

Next Time…

Many of us fear failure, but what about being afraid of success?  We’ll talk about it.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!